The Sketch: Vengeful Tories may laugh last at Bercow

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The Independent Online

Here is the cynics' definition: when politics is at its purest, politicians are motivated by hatred of their enemies more than by love of their friends.

Friend Bercow is running for Speaker. Indeed he is the front runner and is said (presumably by himself) to have secured 100 votes already.

"A technical question," I ask Tory MPs. "How many Tory votes will Bercow get in the election?"

They look at me with an amused expression. "More than 10 or less than 10?" I say to get them started.

After wondering how frank to be they take a breath and say: "Two." They mean himself and Julian Lewis.

"But will he need Tory votes at all?" I ask. "The Labour candidate will be out at the first round.

"Even if it's Frank Field?" they ask.

"Patricia Hewitt will get more Labour votes than Frank."

They pause then to process that.

But it's also true that many Labour MPs have a warm regard for John Bercow. His conversion, they feel, has been genuine. He is certainly clever, with a prodigious memory and a doctorate in procedural matters.

"But he was chucked out of his student organisation in the 1980s for being too right-wing," one Tory said. "And you know who chucked him out? LORD TEBBIT!"

It takes a lot to make me laugh these days and that actually did it. To be too right-wing for Lord Tebbit in his days of dark glory. That should be in some reference work, some dictionary of standards.

But that was then. And the great tribal joke of the decade is here to be made now. The more Tories vilify Bercow, the greater the comic potential in electing him.

However, it may be a three-part joke. He gets elected by a Labour block vote on 22 June. He sits on his throne for a month until the summer recess. The House breaks up.

In the summer, Gordon reaps the whirlwind from his reshuffle. To forestall a leadership coup he announces an autumn election. The Tories win with a 100-seat margin.

The Speaker addresses the new Parliament as required in standing Order (12A).-(1) and calls "upon a Member to move that he do take the Chair of this House as Speaker". And the question is put forthwith.

The punchline is that the vengeful Tory whips mobilise the new intake and votes the question down.

Frank Field is then dragged protesting to the chair. His protests are ignored.

When Bercow was on the back bench he wanted to be on the front bench, when on the front he wanted to be on the back. His old enemies are his friends and his friends are now enemies. And whether or not it all turns out right, everything's been done for the wrong reasons.

But that's the purest form of politics there is.